The Puerto Rican Deaf Community - SIL Home

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The Puerto Rican Deaf Community - SIL Home
DigitalResources
®
The Puerto Rican
Deaf Community
Holly Williams
Elizabeth Parks
Electronic Survey Report 2012-005
The Puerto Rican Deaf Community
Holly Williams and Elizabeth Parks
SIL International®
2012
SIL Electronic Survey Report 2012-005, January 2012
copyright © 2011 Holly Williams, Elizabeth Parks, and SIL International®
All rights reserved
Abstract
The Puerto Rican deaf community has at least 100 years of documented history, with the first deaf school
established in the early 1900s. There has been significant contact with the United States politically and
educationally and deaf Puerto Ricans have the same legal rights as deaf people living in the United States
because they are included under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Deaf schools, ministries,
associations, and organizations are all working for and with the deaf community to meet its linguistic and
social needs. Interpreting services are growing both through the four established agencies and video relay
services, but there is still a significant lack of interpreters to be able to meet the needs of the deaf
population, with estimated numbers between 8,000 and 340,000. Although Puerto Rican Sign Language
(PRSL) may have been present before the establishment of the first school and its use of Signed English
and American Sign Language (ASL), high amounts of contact with the deaf community in the United
States and continued use of ASL in deaf schools have led to ASL being the majority sign language of
Puerto Rico. Now, with relay and interpreting services offered from places both within the United States
and Puerto Rico, ASL is seeing even more use and standardization in the country. In addition, ASL is
being taught at a Puerto Rican university. ASL classes are offered to the public, and only one of the
interpreting agencies indicates offering PRSL interpretation. Although some form of PRSL may still be
used in the less populated areas in the western and central parts of the country, it appears that ASL is
poised to be the sole sign language of the Puerto Rican deaf community in the future. Some local sources
who are familiar with PRSL and ASL indicate that they do not differ greatly and PRSL could be
considered an ASL variety, but language documentation work could help to preserve the memory of old
PRSL and provide a clearer sense of how it impacted the development of the Puerto Rican deaf
community. ASL resources will probably meet the linguistic needs of the majority of deaf Puerto Ricans.
2
Table of Contents
1 The Puerto Rican deaf context 2 Sign languages 3 Communication access 4 Education 5 Organizations, associations, and ministries 6 Conclusion References 3
1 The Puerto Rican deaf context
Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean, located just east of the Dominican Republic. Its total land area
is 13,790 square kilometers (8,569 square miles) of mostly mountainous land with a high peak of Cerro
de Punta at 1,339 meters (4,393 feet). Its climate is tropical and susceptible to both hurricanes and
droughts. The 2009 population estimate was 3,966,213, of which 94 percent are literate, 85 percent adhere
to Roman Catholic Christianity, and 12 percent are unemployed. San Juan, located on the northern coast,
is the capital and largest city with over 420,000 people. Other large cities include Bayamon and Carolina,
which lie southwest and southeast of San Juan, respectively, and Ponce which is located on the southern
coast. Puerto Rico’s official languages are Spanish and English (CIA World Factbook 2010,
Mongabay.com 2007). See Figure 1 for a map of Puerto Rico and its geographical context
(Worldatlas.com 2010).
Figure 1: Puerto Rico map
In 1917, after the Spanish-American war, Puerto Ricans were given citizenship in the United States. In
1952, a constitution was approved by the United States granting Puerto Rico an internal government so,
although Puerto Ricans currently have United States citizenship, they do not vote in the United States
presidential elections. As a United States territory, Puerto Rico is required to comply with the Americans
with Disabilities Act (ADA). In September 2000, many representatives of various deaf-related
organizations held a protest concerning violations of the ADA which included refusals to provide
interpreters in private and government agencies (banks, hospitals, etc.), poor educational opportunities for
deaf children, and discrimination in the workplace (Academia ERS 2000). Aponte (2008) reported that
many deaf people were unaware of their legal rights.
It is unknown when an organized deaf community emerged in Puerto Rico. Fraticelli (1997) indicates that
a chicken pox epidemic and plagues brought by Spaniards and Africans contributed to an increase in the
deaf population. Current estimates of the Puerto Rican deaf and hard-of-hearing population range from
8,000 to 420,000. Harrington (2004) states that the 1944 Puerto Rico census reported a total of 3,690 deaf
and hard-of-hearing people, though there were believed to be many more. Frishberg (1987) indicates that
the Puerto Rican deaf population could have been between 8,000 and 40,000 at the time of her study.
According to the 2000 national census, there were approximately 150,000 deaf people in Puerto Rico
(Aponte 2008 and Prensa Asociada 2008). Sordos de Puerto Rico, Inc. (the Puerto Rico Deaf Association)
estimate 340,000 people with hearing loss and 80,000 people who could be considered totally deaf
4
(Schwartz 2005). As of 2006, newborn-hearing screening is required in Puerto Rico which should lead to
more accurate statistics about the deaf Puerto Rican population (National Institute of Health 2006).
2 Sign languages
According to Gordon (2009), there are four sign varieties in use in Puerto Rico: American Sign Language
(ASL); Puerto Rican Sign Language (PRSL), which is a dialect of ASL; and Signed Spanish and Signed
English, both of which are contact codes between PRSL, ASL; Spanish, and English. Signed English and
ASL were introduced into Puerto Rico in the early 1900s with the founding of the first deaf school.
Gonzalez (2007) states that students at this school began to mix their indigenous signs with the North
American missionaries’ sign language. Due to educational and travel opportunities in the United States
and continued contact between the Puerto Rican and US deaf communities, most deaf people in San Juan
now use a variety of ASL.
According to the Evangelical School for the Deaf (ESD) administrator, Betsy Hoke (2010, personal
communication), the main differences between PRSL and ASL are in palm orientation and rate of
signing. PRSL is signed more slowly and includes more repetition of signs than ASL. Barish (2009)
relates that PRSL is still used in the western region of the island but that ASL is used everywhere else.
However, Gonzalez (2007) indicates that home signs or old Puerto Rican signs can be found near the
middle of the island (Moca, Isabela, and Naranjito) where deaf people are more isolated from the majority
of deaf Puerto Ricans. This isolation may also have led to the creation of unique regional signs that are
unknown and unused elsewhere in Puerto Rico, but Hoke (2010, personal communication) believes that
the sign language used by the isolated deaf people in these regions is not very developed and is mainly
comprised of simple gestures. Within this area, there is at least one family with generational deafness.
One member of this family was recently sent to the San Juan area to attend ESD, which uses ASL. It is
probable that this connection will increase the use of ASL in her family, and possibly in their region as a
whole.
In February 2010, Gracias VRS (Video Relay Service) and San Gabriel para Niños Sordos sponsored a
program designed to teach Puerto Ricans about the history of ASL in order to increase knowledge of the
history of sign language in Puerto Rico (Hagemeyer 2010). At one point, six levels of ASL classes were
offered through the Academia de Estudios Relacionados al Sordo (Academic Studies relating to the Deaf)
in San Juan, Aguadilla, Ponce, and Arecibo. The Academia also offered workshops for interpreters and
others who want to improve their ASL skills (Academia ERS 2000). However, they appear to have closed
in 2010 (ESD 2010).
3 Communication access
Communication access to hearing Puerto Rican society appears to be improving. Interpreters are
becoming better trained and are growing in number and media is becoming increasingly accessible. In
2008, representatives of the deaf community picketed the WAPA-TV, protesting the exclusive use of
Spanish closed captioning on TV which does not sufficiently meet their linguistic needs (Prensa Asociada
2008). Because Spanish is not the first language of many deaf Puerto Ricans, only some are able to
achieve a sufficiently high Spanish reading level to be able to access this service. Quantell Interpretation
through the Servicios Orientados al Sordo provides sign language interpreting on Channel 6, a San Juan
public broadcasting station, and also airs ABC en Señas, a weekly TV program on Saturday afternoons
(Mano a Mano n.d.).
As a result of the need for interpreters in schools, the Vocational Rehabilitation Program started the
Auxiliary Services Unit for the Deaf in 1977. It offers interpreting services in San Juan, Ponce, and
Arecibo (Fraticelli 1994). An interpreter training program is also offered through the University of
5
Turabo in Gurabo, Puerto Rico (Cultura Sorda 2007) and there are at least four interpreting agencies and a
variety of relay service options, including both text and video. In 2009, there were reportedly only 50-60
certified interpreters in Puerto Rico. Although this is growing in number, it is still not enough to provide
services to all deaf Puerto Ricans (Alcaide 2009). The Puerto Rico Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf
was founded in 1996 and exists for the professional development of interpreters/transliterators (PRRID
n.d.). In 1999, Mano a Mano (n.d.) was created and continues to offer interpreter conferences. Sign
Language Interpreters (SLI) provides interpreting services in PRSL, ASL, Spanish, and English (SLI
2005). ASL Services Inc. is an interpreting agency servicing the United States and Puerto Rico. In an
attempt to better assist Spanish speaking communities, a sister organization ASLS Latino developed in
Puerto Rico (ASL Services n.d.). However, because of the number of interpreters being hired for relay
services, there are very few interpreters left for education, government offices, or other face-to-face
meetings.
There are at least four companies that actively offer relay services in Puerto Rico: Sprint, Hands On
Video Relay Service, Inc., ASL Services: Latino, and Sorenson Communications. Sprint offers its
traditional relay service (TRS) to deaf and hard-of-hearing citizens of Puerto Rico, allowing them to have
communication with hearing people over the phone. Through a text telephone (TTY) or the Internet a
deaf person can call a TRS relay operator who will then read the words typed by the deaf user to the
hearing party. Sprint also offers video relay service (VRS) which uses a videophone or web camera
instead of typing. This allows for more natural communication through sign language (Schwartz 2005). In
2006, Hands On Video Relay Service, Inc. opened a call center in Guaynabo to service Spanish-speaking
communities in the United States and Puerto Rico. It works in partnership with ASL Services to provide
certified trilingual (ASL, spoken English, and Spanish) interpreters (HOVRS 2006). ASL Services:
Latino has also brought in Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) technology to Puerto Rico which allows deaf
people access to a virtual interpreter in public locations such as stores like Best Buy. In addition,
Sorenson Communications opened a VRS Interpreting Center in Puerto Rico in 2007. It provides free
video relay services to deaf individuals through tri-lingual interpreters (ASL, spoken English, and
Spanish) (Sorenson Communications 2007).
4 Education
There are four known schools specializing in deaf education in Puerto Rico—two are private Christian
and two are government-funded. These schools include the Evangelical School for the Deaf and the
Colegio San Gabriel para Niños Sordos in the San Juan metropolitan area, Colegio de Niños Sordos Fray
Pedro Ponce de Leon in Ponce, and Escuela Cristiana para Sordos in Aguadilla. See Table 1 for more
information about these schools.
Table 1: Educational centers for deaf children
Name
Colegio San Gabriel
para Niños Sordos
Evangelical School for
the Deaf
Location
San Juan
Contact Information
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Luquillo
(San Juan Area)
Colegio de Niños
Sordos Fray Pedro
Ponce de Leon
Escuela Cristiana para
Sordos
Ponce
(Southern coast)
HC-01 Buzón 7111 – Barrio Casa Blance, Road 983
Km 1.6, Luquillo, PR 00773-9602; TTY: (787) 889
3488 – Tel: (787) 889 3488 – Fax: (787) 889 3488;
[email protected]; www.esd.faithweb.com
9 Rambla, Ponce, PR 00715;
Tel: (787) 840-3011
Aguadilla
(Northwest coast)
Connected to Puerto Rico Deaf Ministries
6
Catholic missionaries of the Sacred Heart, from Maryland, USA, began the first known deaf education in
Puerto Rico in the early 1900s. Some of these missionaries obtained training from Dr. Thomas Gallaudet
(founder of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.) and started a deaf school in Aguadilla, using
Signed English as the method of communication. Due to high attendance in 1903, they transferred the
deaf girls to a school in San Juan and the deaf boys to a school in Cayey, towards the south. Attempts
were made to build an educational center to meet the needs of the deaf children but natural disasters and
lack of finances slowed its construction. Finally, in 1915, the Sacred Heart missionaries established the
Colegio San Gabriel para Niños Sordos in San Juan. Students up to the age of thirteen attended and those
who graduated often found jobs or continued their education in the United States. In 1956, four
Franciscan nuns from Spain, Chile, Peru, and Venezuela took over the San Gabriel para Niños Sordos
when the Sacred Heart missionaries returned to the United Sates. Signed English was replaced with the
oral/aural method in Spanish. In 1965, the governor of Puerto Rico helped the Franciscan nuns obtain a
plot of land for their school facilities (Fraticelli 1994). Today, the Colegio San Gabriel para Niños Sordos
has deaf teachers and reportedly uses ASL in the classrooms filled with roughly 100 deaf students.
After working with the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf in Jamaica, Evangelical Christian
missionaries from the United States founded a school for deaf children in Luquillo, in 1957. In the 1960s
the school closed due to a lack of teachers (Fraticelli 1994) but later reconvened and is now the
Evangelical School for the Deaf (ESD). ESD is administered by the Canadian organization, World
Mission to the Deaf. It is the only school for deaf children in Puerto Rico that uses English as the primary
spoken language. It employs a Total Communication approach which includes the use of any language to
aid communication, namely ASL, PRSL, contact signing, and written English and Spanish. ESD often
uses ASL materials produced by Deaf Missions (Council Bluffs, USA) and is known for its handbell
choir that started in 2002 (ESD 2010). In 2009, it had a total of eleven students enrolled. ESD’s objectives
are to provide education, a Biblical foundation, and vocational and social training (Barish 2009).
In 1970, a deaf woman, Emilia Dasta, established a school in Ponce using the oral method. Colegio de
Niños Sordos Fray Pedro Ponce de Leon is reported to have roughly eighty deaf students. The
Organizacion Cristiana para Educacion de Sordos is an outreach of Puerto Rico Deaf Ministries in Ponce.
It works with deaf preschoolers in their homes on the western region of the island and plans to add a
grade each school year. Its teaching methodology includes sign language and Spanish but it is unknown
how many deaf students attend this school. The Puerto Rico Deaf Ministries has also established a deaf
school in Aguadilla but it is unknown how many deaf students attend school at this location (OCES n.d.).
During the 1970s, mainstream hearing schools across Puerto Rico began to offer special programs for
deaf students, raising the need for interpreters in the classroom. The Regional School for the Deaf and
Muliple-Handicapped Children was established in 1978 to address needs of deaf children in the southeast
region of Puerto Rico, spurred by the start of a parent’s association in the southeast Puerto Rican city of
Guayama, in 1973 (Fraticelli 1994). A new law was created in 2009 that requires all regular public
elementary schools with one or more enrolled deaf students to offer optional sign language classes for any
interested teachers and hearing students. The hope is that deaf students will be less marginalized and be
more fully integrated into society (Gonzalez 2009).
Post-secondary education in Puerto Rico is provided through the use of sign language interpreters in
mainstream settings. PEPNet-Northeast is based out of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in
Rochester, New York, and exists to promote secondary and postsecondary educational access for the deaf
and hard-of-hearing community, including the Puerto Rican deaf community (RIT n.d.). In the 1980s, the
University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras started a teacher training program in deaf education, and a deaf
preschool simulation facility. It also accepted a deaf student into its deaf education graduate program
(Fraticelli 1994).
7
5 Organizations, associations, and ministries
A variety of organizations have been founded to support the Puerto Rican deaf community by providing
vocational training, defending deaf rights, offering athletic opportunities, providing sign language classes,
and addressing the needs of the deaf-blind community. For example, the Organización Internacional de
Orientación de la Sordera (OIDOS – International Organization of Deaf Orientation) was founded in the
1970s to address deaf-related issues such as education, rehabilitation, and sign language classes for the
public (Fraticelli 1994). The local deaf association, Sordos de Puerto Rico, Inc., began in 1994 and exists
to make sure the needs of deaf people in Puerto Rico are addressed. The Assessment and Adjustment Unit
for the Deaf (AAUD) provides vocational rehabilitation services in the San Juan area and various other
locations. Its services include counseling, occupational therapy, interpreter services, and remedial
education skills (Baker 2009). One of the primary purposes of the Instituto Loaíza Cordero para Ciegos is
to provide services for deaf-blind students between the ages of 0-21, support to their families, and
resources to professionals providing various services (Departamento de Educacion de Puerto Rico n.d.).
See Table 2 for a more complete list of organizations serving deaf Puerto Ricans.
Table 2: Organizations serving the deaf community
Name
Academia de Estudios Relacionados al Sordo
Contact
272 B (Segundo Nivel) Ave Jesús T. Piñero
University Gardens Rio Piedras, PR 00927;
Tel: (787) 771-9430, TDD (787) 771-9430;
[email protected]; www.deafpr.00pg.com
P O Box 21301, San Juan, PR 00928 1301;
Tel: (809) 763 4665
Asociacion de Padres ProBienestar de Niños con
Impedimentos de PR Inc.
Asociaicon de Sordos Independentistas de Arecibo
Asociacion de Sordos Universitarios, Inc.
400 Calaf Suite 55 San Juan, PR 00918;
TTY: (787) 764-8204 – Tel: (787) 767-4726
Fax: (787) 764-8204; [email protected]ui.net.com
Alec McFarlane – President; Tel: (866) 791-8535
http://www.oppi.gobierno.pr/oppimenu.htm
Deaf Library Friends
Oficina del Procurador de las Personas con
Impedimentos (OPPI)
Organización Puertorriqueña de Patología del
Habla, Lenguaje y Audiologia, Inc.
P.O. Box 20147 San Juan, PR 00928-0147;
Tel: (787) 268-0273, [email protected];
http://opphla.org/
Sant Rosa Unit, Box 6616, Bayamon, PR 006219006; Tel: 809-782-4475
PO Box 7423, Ponce, PR 00732-7423;
Tel: (787) 842-1532, TTY: (787) 843-5234;
[email protected]; http://www.prdm.org/Home.html
P.O. Box 19075, San Juan, PR 00919-0759;
Tel: (787) 759-7228; Director – Maria T. Moreles’
e-mail: [email protected]
65 Jose Marti Street – San Juan PR 00925;
TTY: (787) 764-8204 – Tel: (787) 764-8204;
[email protected]
http://www.sordosprinc.org/
400 Calaf Suite 55 – San Juan, PR 00918;
TTY: (787) 767-4726 – Tel: (787) 767-4726 – Fax:
(787) 764-8204; [email protected]
Puerto Rico Deaf-Blind Parents Association
Puerto Rico Deaf Ministries Inc. (PRDM)
Puerto Rico (Multi-State) Project for Children and
Young Adults who are Deaf-Blind
Servicios Orientados al Sordo Inc.
Sordos de Puerto Rico Inc.
Teatro de Jovenes Sordos Puertorriqueños Inc.
8
In addition to these organizations, a number of religious ministries offer meeting places and support for
the Puerto Rican deaf community. For example, Puerto Rico Deaf Ministries (PRDM) was founded in
1985 by David and Marsha Mitchell. David serves as a pastor of a deaf mission in St. Croix, USVI as
well as pastoring a deaf group at Nazaret Baptist Church in Puerto Rico (Staff Reports 2006). Currently,
they offer deaf community leadership training, camps, special events, and transportation to mission areas
(PRDM n.d.). The Iglesia Evangelica para Sordos (Evangelical Church for the Deaf) is connected to ESD
and is located in the San Juan area. It offers services in sign language with translation into both English
and Spanish (ECCD 2005). See Table 3 for a more complete list of churches with deaf ministries.
Table 3: Christian deaf ministries
Name
Calvary Baptist Taberbacle
Location
Carolina (San Juan area)
Iglesia de Sordos Luz de Cristo
Iglesia Evangelica para Sordos
(Roger and David Rawlings)
Rio Piedras (San Juan area)
Hato Rey (San Juan area)
Mision de Sordos de la Iglesia
Bautista “La Fe”
Mision de Sordos de “La
Primera Iglesia Bautista de
Barceloneta”
Mision de Sordos de la Iglesia
Bautista “Nazaret”
Mision de Sordos de la Iglesia
Bautista “Rey de Reyes”
Mision de Sordos de la
“Primera Iglesia Bautista de
Ponce”
Primera Iglesia Bautista de
Hormigueros
Primera Iglesia Fundamental
Bautista de Ceiba
Arecibo (Northern PR)
Contact
Carretera 860 KM 2.0, Barrio Martín
González, Carolina, PR 00987;
Tel: (787) 769-0055 ext. 222
Connected to Puerto Rico Deaf Ministries
Urb. Piñero, Calle Alhambra 100, Hato
Rey, PR 00917; Tel: (787) 753-8789
(voice and tty) Fax: (787) 274-8179;
http://www.deafforchrist.org/eccd.htm
Barceloneta (Northern PR)
San Juan
David and Marsha Mitchell
Aguadilla (Northwest PR)
Ponce (Southern PR)
Hormigueros (Western PR)
Connected to Puerto Rico Deaf Ministries
Ceiba (Eastern PR)
Box 215, Cieba, PR 00738; Bo. Quebrada
Seca Carr. #3 km 57.2 Ceiba, PR 00735;
(Deaf Ministry) Carlos Motta,
[email protected],
VP: (787) 863-0344;
http://pibceiba.com/sordos.html
6 Conclusion
The Puerto Rican deaf community has at least 100 years of documented history, with the first deaf school
established in the early 1900s. There has been significant contact with the United States politically and
educationally and deaf Puerto Ricans have the same legal rights as deaf people living in the United States
because they are included under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Deaf schools, ministries,
associations, and organizations are all working for and with the deaf community to meet its linguistic and
social needs. Interpreting services are growing both through the four established agencies and video relay
services, but there is still a significant lack of interpreters to be able to meet the needs of the deaf
population, with estimated numbers between 8,000 and 340,000.
9
Although Puerto Rican Sign Language (PRSL) may have been present before the establishment of the
first school and its use of Signed English and American Sign Language (ASL), high amounts of contact
with the deaf community in the United States and continued use of ASL in deaf schools have led to ASL
being the majority sign language of Puerto Rico. Now, with relay and interpreting services offered from
places both within the United States and Puerto Rico, ASL is seeing even more use and standardization in
the country. In addition, ASL is being taught at a Puerto Rican university, ASL classes are offered to the
public, and only one of the interpreting agencies indicates offering PRSL interpretation. Although some
form of PRSL may still be used in the less populated areas in the western and central parts of the country,
it appears that ASL is poised to be the sole sign language of the Puerto Rican deaf community in the
future. Some local sources who are familiar with PRSL and ASL indicate that they do not differ greatly
and PRSL could be considered an ASL variety, but language documentation work could help to preserve
the memory of old PRSL and provide a clearer sense of how it impacted the development of the Puerto
Rican deaf community. ASL resources will probably meet the linguistic needs of the majority of deaf
Puerto Ricans but this should be monitored to ensure full accessibility.
References
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10
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PRDM. n.d. Puerto Rico Deaf Ministries. http://www.prdm.org/Home.html, accessed March 29, 2010.
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